Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,
I have read that if you don't receive a thank you, then the giving of gifts should be limited. I have struggled with this for some time because my situation deals with family.
My two children (ages 18 and 21) live with their mother and her husband. They do not say, "thank you," at all. Therefore, in the last year and a half my gift giving has dropped significantly. They expect gifts, and feel getting them is a right. I don't believe that and have told them so, but still, no thanks for what I do. I am concerned that their perception of how much a parent cares for them is based on the amount of a gift.
Should I continue to send gifts? Given their age, I think that they should know that showing appreciation is appropriate. Without some measure of appreciation, then perhaps a card and a phone call for Christmas, birthdays, etc. is all I should do so they know I am thinking about them.
Do your children express appreciation to others who give them gifts? Or, is it just you that they ignore?
Family dynamics often come into play with these issues. How long have you been divorced? Were you the one who initiated the divorce? Do you see your kids very often? Other than their not showing appreciation for gifts that you give them, do you and your kids have a good relationship? If the family dynamics are not fine, then their lack of appreciation may be a way of expressing their anger or hostility toward you.
Parents are often taken for granted by their kids. If you and your kids get along great, then they probably don't realize that a thank you to a parent is important. You need to sit down and have a serious talk about this with them. If they also ignore other people who give them gifts, then tell them that their lack of appreciation makes them appear selfish and ungrateful. People judge others by their actions. Explain how their lack of appreciation makes you feel (hurt, sad, unappreciated, etc.). Let them know that there will be a consequence to their not appreciating the gifts that you give. Decide what the consequence will be before you have the talk. For example, you will give a monetary contribution to a charity in their name instead of a direct gift to them. It's important that you follow through and really do something other than give them a gift. Always call or send a card to let them know you're thinking about them, and let them know about the donation in their name.
Showing appreciation and writing thank you notes is something that needs to be taught to children. Even though your children are grown, they still need to be taught. It's never too late to start.